Colonized by Spain, the “Land of Enchantment” became a U.S. territory as part of the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, achieving statehood in 1912. The ancient Spanish dialect spoken by close to a quarter of a million people throughout New Mexico is largely Castilian in origin. The most important agricultural industry is ranching. The land is also rich in minerals and natural resources. One-fourth of the population of two million work for the Federal government. During World War II, New Mexico was the site of the top-secret Manhattan Project, in which U.S. scientists raced to create the first atomic bomb, which was tested near Alamagordo on July 16, 1945. The historic city of Santa Fe was called home by artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Other famous former residents include William “Billy the Kid” Bonney and singer John Denver.
- In 1947, Roswell, New Mexico, became a topic of speculation about extraterrestrial life when a local farmer discovered unidentified debris believed to be the remains of a crashed alien spacecraft.
- Constructed in 1610, the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe is the oldest seat of government in the United States.
- Originating in 1972, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each October who come to witness the more than 600 colorful hot air balloons ascend into the air.
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